Gail Collins's campaign to repeatedly mention Mitt Romney's old family dog Seamus in her regular New York Times column has received a lot of media scrutiny this past week. "Gail Collins will not let 'Crate Gate' drop," writes The New York Observer. "Why is Times columnist Gail Collins so obsessed with Mitt Romney's dog?" asks NPR. Collins, however, will not be deterred. "I have to admit it's become a kind of challenge to see if I can keep going," she tells The Atlantic Wire.
Collins first drew attention to Mitt Romney's "trip to Canada with the family dog strapped to the roof of the station wagon" in a 2007 column. She seized on an anecdote from a Boston Globe profile of Romney as a particularly ridiculous factoid about the rigidly efficiency-minded former consultant. She revived the meme of giving it a mention, usually just as a quick aside in a column on some more serious-minded topic, for his 2012 campaign, and at this point, she's mentioned Seamus 30 times, according to the Observer's count. The mentions are usually quick and meant as comic relief, part of her campaign to write about politics "in a way that did not cause [readers] to want to throw themselves out the nearest window," as she tells NPR.
Yet the media coverage of the dog-meme can feel heavy-handed. Dartmouth political science professor Brendan Nyhan tells NPR: "She's trying to be funny — I get that ... But I do think it's representative of the way that the media focuses on trivia, things that are so inconsequential." Kind of taking all the fun out of it there, Nyhan.
Collins admits that some of the heavy-handedness is her own fault. "I think I did three or four interviews last week about the dog on the roof -- it's that time of the year -- and in retrospect that was probably a mistake. It's the kind of thing that either works or it doesn't. You can't really discuss it," she told us. But that doesn't mean she'll be stopping. At least not yet. "I swear once there's a Republican nominee, I'm done. This is not the sort of thing you want to turn into a career." So look for more Seamus appearances on the Opinion pages as primary season ramps up, just don't look for as much commentary about it from Collins herself.